Everest – Day 12: Pheriche

April 10 (Wednesday)

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In order to make our bodies more used to the thin air, we went on an acclimatization hike to about 15,500 ft (about 1000 ft higher than Pheriche where we were staying at the moment).  I should mention here that we had a mix of American guides and Sherpa guides on the trek.  American men were always going a ‘normal’ pace but the Sherpas seemed to think that we were all mountain goats and made us run up the mountain.  Unfortunately that day a Sherpa was leading so we all had to race up the hill.  I started getting a headache (typical side effect of going too high too fast) so one of the American guides told me to slow down my pace.  I did which helped out my headache, but as a result I fell behind the rest of the group.  So naturally I got upset.  All kinds of doubt crept into my mind: ‘if I’m so slow now then they will surely turn me around on the summit day’; ‘I suck’, etc…  There really was nothing to worry about as my guides reassured me, but today was the first time this mountain kicked my ass!  And we’re only at 14,000 feet!  Twice that to go!

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DAY 13

Everest – Day 11: Deboche to Pheriche

April 9 (Tuesday)

Today’s trek led us to Pheriche at 14,270ft, roughly 2000 ft higher than our previous lodge at Deboche.

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What a beautiful hike today!  We started out by descending a little bit to Tengboche to see Geshe monk, the highest Lhama of the Khumbu Valley.  It was very important to all Sherpas and guides on our expedition to get proper blessing, and this monk was the answer.

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We sat around sipping Sherpa tea while each of us was given a card with a history of how Everest was formed, and a Buddhist prayer.  Each one of us then came up to the monk who wrote our names in Nepalese on the Everest card and gave us a typical prayer scarf along with a tiny orange rope to wear around our necks.  He instructed us to take the card out before our final rotation to the summit, point it towards Everest, and ask the Goddess for the permission to pass and for safe journey.  We were supposed to keep the card on top of our backpack and take it all the way to the summit.

me getting the blessing for successful and safe summit

me getting the blessing for successful and safe summit

Andy getting the blessing for safe trek to Base Camp

Andy getting the blessing for safe trek to Base Camp

After the blessing we started hiking again and were rewarded with views of Everest, as well as Lhotse to its right and the Nuptse ridge to its left.  Again, there were very high winds beating up the summit of Everest which made my anxiety level jump up a touch… 🙂  In addition to the three mountains we also had spectacular views of Ama Dablam towering seemingly at a reach of a hand.

Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam

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Everest to the left (with the cloud of wind)

We had lunch at Shomare (13,156 ft) and started our hike again, this time along a mountain ridge.  The landscape was changing; the trees were visibly smaller and we saw no more of the blooming rhododendron trees.  This part of the trail was easy, pretty flat for the most part, and with spectacular views of the mountains all around and the winding river down below.

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We got over a tree line pretty fast and we were encountered with little dried out shrubs as well as many huge boulders.  We ended our hike that day with a glimpse of Cho Oyu and spectacular views of Mt. Lobuche.  Our home for the night was the Himalayan Lodge in Pheriche (14,340 ft).  What an awesome day today!!

DAY 12

Everest – Day 10: Khumjung to Deboche

April 8 (Monday)

Today’s trek took us to Deboche at 3734m (12,250ft), so at roughly the same elevation as Khumjung.  The idea was to let our bodies acclimatize even better to this low level of oxygen.

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The day didn’t start very bright…  One of the climbers who was hoping to go to Camp 2 has been fighting a GI bug over the last couple days.  He got so dehydrated that it wasn’t safe for him to go further up and he had to be helicoptered out to a hospital in Kathmandu…  Poor guy, we felt so bad for him.  He let me have his knee brace before he left which helped me out a great deal on today’s hike.

We stopped for lunch at Phungi Thanga (say that out loud!! 😉 and continued on up a steady hill to Deboche (12,250 ft).

Before we got to our destination, we encountered another monastery.

the entrance to the monastery

the entrance to the monastery

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Because there was no Buddhist monks present, we were allowed to take pictures inside of the monastery (as opposed to the one in Thame).  The temple was just as interesting as all the previous ones we’ve seen; the walls were covered with paintings of Buddha.  There were also two long tables present with cloths on the ground which served as seats for the monks.

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We stayed the night at the Rivendell Lodge which gave me and Andy a chuckle since we’re both big dork fans of The Lord Of The Rings 😉

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Although still not bad, our accommodations were getting progressively worse.  The bedrooms were dark, and although we still had our own toilet, it wasn’t nearly as ‘luxurious’ as the one in Namche.  The shower was communal, which certainly didn’t stop us from using it!

DAY 11

Everest – Day 9: Thame to Khumjung

April 7 (Sunday)

After breakfast we set out to our next destination, Khumjung, at about 12,500 ft.  We backtracked almost all the way down to Namche Bazaar and continued on towards Everest Base Camp.  The elevation raised only by about 900ft so we can gently keep acclimitizing to the ever thinning air.

today's trek

today’s trek

Not the greatest day for me and some other climbers.  Earlier on the trek I stepped wrong on a rock or something and twisted my knee.  It hurt really badly throughout the day which was really discouraging since I had so many more days to go!  Also, a few climbers picked up a GI bug, diarrhea, vomiting, or both…  The Khumbu Valley region is so known for traveler’s diarrhea that the bacteria causing the symptoms are already resistant to Cipro!  We were told to go straight to Azithromycin to help our ailments, since Cipro would do absolutely nothing to alleviate our symptoms…  My belly was fine for now although I was getting some uncomfortable bloating due to altitude.  This feeling was actually new to me.  I’ve been bloated at altitude before but not as much as on this trip, and certainly not as such low elevation!   We were eating lots of local foods rich in lentils and other beans, so I’m sure that didn’t help my stomach much…  I started wishing already that we make it to Base Camp as soon as possible to avoid all the ‘cooties’ of the villages!

The weather continued to be nice.  It seemed like the forecast was always the same: clear skies and hot weather during the day followed by clouds and chill in the afternoon and cold at night.

DAY 10

Everest – Day 8: Namche Bazaar to Thame

April 6 (Saturday)

Today we set out for Thame.  This village is actually in opposite direction than Base Camp but we needed to acclimatize properly, plus our guides wanted us to see where the majority of our Sherpas come from.

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As we learned, the word ‘Sherpa’ is the name of the people who live in the Khumbu region.  Many of them make their living by farming, but many work as porters on the Base Camp trek and higher up on the mountain.  It’s a very sought after job since it pays a lot of money in a very short amount of time (a climbing Sherpa can make over one year salary in just 3 months of an expedition).

Before we left for Namche the owner of the Panorama Lodge where we stayed those last couple of days gave us a blessing and wished us good luck on our adventure.

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It took us about 5 hours and numerous hills to get to Thame and gain 1000 ft of elevation.

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stupa on the way to Thame

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The village was mostly surrounded by mountains covered in a haze, they looked so surreal as if taken out of a sci-fi movie!  Very very beautiful.

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After lunch we went up another 200 ft to visit a monastery where we were allowed to observe a prayer ceremony.  Not to sound sacrilegious, but the whole thing looked very primitive.  There were two rows of monks facing each other, each chanting in seemingly no particular order.  Some of them were using metal Swiss horns, clarinets and cymbals.  The whole thing was so loud that my ears started hurting.  I’m sure I couldn’t appreciate any of it since I’m not a Buddhist and don’t understand the chanting.  Even though I didn’t care much for the whole experience, it was still very interesting to witness!

Interesting fact about the monastery: they take in any small boys whose families cannot provide for them.  The monastery gives them food, clothes and shelter, and raises them as monks until they decide to leave and become climbing Sherpas, porters, or simply farmers.

DAY 9